March 10th, 2009
03:38 PM ET
11 years ago

Senator warns White House on possible vet insurance plan

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki confirmed Tuesday that the Obama administration is considering a controversial a plan to make veterans pay for treatment of service-related injuries with private insurance.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki confirmed Tuesday that the Obama administration is considering a controversial a plan to make veterans pay for treatment of service-related injuries with private insurance.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki confirmed Tuesday that the Obama administration is considering a controversial plan to make veterans pay for treatment of service-related injuries with private insurance, but was told by lawmakers that it would be "dead on arrival" if sent to Congress.

Washington Sen. Patty Murray used that blunt terminology, telling Shinseki that the idea would not be acceptable and would be rejected if formally proposed. She made the remarks during a Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing about the 2010 budget.

No official proposal to create such a program has been announced publicly, but veterans groups wrote a pre-emptive letter last week to President Obama opposing the idea after hearing the plan was under consideration. The groups also noticed an increase in “third-party collections” estimated in the 2010 budget proposal—something they said could only be achieved if the VA started billing for service-related injuries.

Asked about the proposal, Shinseki said it was under "consideration."

"A final decision hasn't been made yet," he said.

A second senator, North Carolina Republican Richard Burr, said he agreed that the idea should not go forward.

"I think you will give that up" as a revenue stream, if it is included in this April's budget, Burr said.

Sen. Murray said she'd already discussed her concerns with the secretary the previous week.

"I believe that veterans with service-connected injuries have already paid by putting their lives on the line," Murray said in her remarks. "I don't think we should nickel and dime them for their care."

Eleven of the most prominent veterans organizations have been lobbying Congress to oppose the idea. In the letter sent last week to President Barack Obama, the veterans groups warned that the idea "is wholly unacceptable and a total abrogation of our government's moral and legal responsbility to the men and women who have sacrificed so much."

The groups included The American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

At the time, a White House spokesman would neither confirm nor deny the option was being considere

Filed under: Veterans
soundoff (222 Responses)
  1. J in Ohio

    Let us all please take a moment and remember that considering something is not enacting it. There are a lot of tough budgetary concerns that need to be addressed and tough decisions to be made. It's counter-productive to explode into fury at even the consideration of an idea. Also, note that they're talking about billing private insurers, when available, not just handing a bill to the Vets. I disagree with the idea, but the money freed up in the VA budget could go towards services like repairing the antiquated Hospital system the Vets have to endure now. There are pros and cons to this idea.

    March 10, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  2. Debby

    I believe it. You people got buffaloed into voting for this guy with his phoney charisma and eloquent speaking.

    March 10, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  3. Free market capitalist

    Hey Republicans, Obama is just following your advice. This is just free-market capitalism at work. This is TOTALLY NOT "socialist". Lol! You right-wing hypocrites never cease to amaze me, this is the kind of thing that you have been advocating for, and now you have the nerve to become indignant? You should be applauding this move towards free market capitalism. We can just give the veterans a 5000.00 tax credit to put towards a health insurance premium (never mind the fact that that won't even cover the cost of a single surgical procedure under the current "free market" conditions). Come on right-wingers, recognize when someone is making a move that you support!

    March 10, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  4. Llinda

    This is what Obama wants to do. Another foolish idea.

    March 10, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  5. Dan

    After thinking about this, I don't believe there is even one person in this country, President Obama included that expects a soldier who loses his leg to and IED in Basra, Iraq to pay for that horrible injury and treatment him or herself. For those on active duty, we're on duty 24/7 even when we're playing soccer on post and we break an ankle. Perhaps that is what the Secretary is looking at. Surely, a former 4 star general himself who has placed his life on the line many times, understands that veterans don't pay for a lost arm or leg or something like that.

    March 10, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  6. Glennis

    Dumb and dumber; every day, in every way.

    March 10, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  7. Mustang Allie

    I see the Obamabots are STILL making excuses for their Clown in Chief! What does he have to do to get you to say, "Gee, maybe he's not the Savior of the World after all?" KILL somebody??????? I guess even then you'd say, "Oh, well, that's OK too." Why not? You all think Ted the Killer Kennedy is a great guy!

    March 10, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  8. in the middle

    This is how business will be handle on speculation. I never heard Obama say anything about this and I am pretty sure many of you have not either. Republican should be ashamed of themselves. They are throwing anything out there.

    March 10, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  9. REB in NC

    I agree with obama-mama. Everyone is jumping the gun. No formal plan has been put forward yet. The first step in problem solving is to put ALL ideas on the table, no matter how good, bad, stupid or crazy they may seem to be, The next is to examine each one for benefits and costs. Sometimes policy makers send up trial balloons to see what might fly. Unlike the previous administration, this one understands that hard questions do not have simple answers.

    March 10, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  10. William Wirt

    Veterans need better care and professional full time career staffing and stop running training centers for new doc.. Not some idiots new plan to bring thrid party money into an already allying system, allow vets to sue in local courts if you want to bring about real change to the VA.

    March 10, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  11. Millie Bea

    I find it very hard to believe that this came from Obama. Especially considering the special relationship Michelle has with military families. Eric Shinseki may be floating the idea- but I would be very surprised if it was created in discussion with Obama. People should calm down until they have facts.

    March 10, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  12. Lush Limprick & Osama bin Laden have the same vision for America - FAILURE!

    I recommend some of you read the article, you are too eager to start typing in Lush's daily talking points.

    NO ONE has suggested "vets losing coverage" or "pay out of their own pocket". The care would be exactly the same as today.

    The only suggestion is that IF the veteran has a private insurance medical insurance plan then that would be billed before going to the taxpayer to fund the care.

    The only thing I see wrong with the plan is that many vet's injuries would quickly reach the maximum of the insurance policy, in my case 1 million lifetime max. This curtail care to his/her family if the lifetime cap were met.

    I do not like the plan for that reason, but I can see the effort to shift the cost to private insurance companies and off the taxpayer.

    March 10, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  13. Sami

    Sounds like a fake issue that the republicans made up in order to fake a response they could pretend they care. I doubt it is being considered.

    March 10, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  14. jon

    so it seems to me that veterans jsut want EVERYTHING paid for them (free housing, free tuition, free health care, free car, monthly $$$)....we'll sounds like socialism to me.....

    March 10, 2009 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  15. Joanna

    PATC March 10th, 2009 3:50 pm ET "Obama and all libtards have total disdain for the military. He has been taught this his entire life through his Saul Alinsky Communist days in College to his William Ayers days in Chicago. Why is anybody surprised?"

    "Obama and all libtards"???? PATC, speak for yourself and not the rest of the American citizenship. You don't know all 350+ million of us personally and therefore are in no position to call names......I don't align myself with any party, but do consider myself a fairly liberal moderate (in other words, so that you can understand what I'm saying, I believe in common sense and the greatest good to the greatest number). Many members of my family have served in the US armed forces and I've always felt that our government isn't doing enough for our Vets. My uncle (who's 88, btw) served in WWII, so FU PATC.....this "libtard" supports our Troops and our Vets!!!

    March 10, 2009 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  16. A tired American

    I am a retired military Noncommissioned Officer. I quailfy for "free" medical care for life (or until I go on Medicare). I pay for Tricare as my health insurance and it's a good deal for me. I suppose that I could go to a VA hospital and get treatment, but I like the idea of having the same family doctor as my wife. Why couldn't the VA make TRICARE available to non-retired veterens? It would help offset the cost to the taxpayer, and might reduce complaints about Vets getting "free" care for their service-related injuries.

    March 10, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  17. Jen

    I think some people need to properly read the "proposal". It's being floated for injured vets to pay for their injuries out of private insurance, not out of pocket. My husband goes to the VA for treatment, and yet because I have him on my policy through my work, they bill my insurance company – how's that for the VA skirting the responsibility? Keep in mind that there's also a healthcare reform bill floating out there as well – meaning that people can be insured under their private insurance or through government provided insurance – meaning that the VA can just transfer their load onto the government – still probably not much more out of pocket. I don't think that anyone wants to take away a servicemembers right to treatment, they're just looking for new ways to shift the budget around to pay for it.

    March 10, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  18. So Obama wants to attack......

    American troops with war injuries and make them pay for their injuries with private insurance that they can in no way afford. Maybe he'll attack women and children with disabilities next.

    March 10, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  19. Time for Term Limits

    What is wrong with the government paying for a private insurance policy to cover war-related injuries, at no cost to the vet? Why do we have to use VA hospitals only? I guess because the government is better at the private sector at delivering health care?

    March 10, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  20. NO!!!

    Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki confirmed Tuesday that the Obama administration is considering a controversial a plan to make veterans pay for treatment of service-related injuries with private insurance.***KEY WORD CONSIDERING***I don't Believe It ...Say it ain't soooooo JOE !!!

    March 10, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  21. Margie

    I love that the Obama administration is looking at everything but this is not a good idea, to many people, especially young people, have giving life and limb to fight for our country. This would truely be a slap in the face to our vets. Can't do it.

    March 10, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  22. P. Y.

    Until I hear it from Obama's lips, I will wait and see. I personally DO NOT believe this is what he has in mind.

    I do know the way it exists right now, from personal experience. If you are on Medicare and you go to the VA, they bill Medicare for your visit. At one point I discovered that they were double dipping by billing Medicare and then charging me for the MD visits. ( Not on 100% disability ) When I complained, then they TOOK THEIR GOOD OLD TIME and finally returned my money to me.

    Do not jump to conclusions until you find out what is really going on.

    March 10, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  23. nothing changes

    The plan might actually make some sense if the VETS were reimbursed for the private insurance cost; then they could choose local and possibly better avenues for care without the care and feeding that goes along with supporting the VA

    March 10, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  24. Willy G

    This is what this Republican admires about Democrats – they are not afraid to stand up to a President from their own party and say, "This is a bad idea and we won't support it."

    The socially- conservative Republican-controlled Congresses under George Bush were too timid and scared to stand up to him. They rubber-stamped everything he gave them, including the garbage, citing "loyalty" etc. Well bad legislation is bad legislation. At least the Democrats have shown us that they have the courage to fullfill their Constitutional duty of providing checks and balances.

    This is a lesson the social-conservatives need to learn if the Republican Party is to become politically relevant again.

    March 10, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  25. Steve (the real one)

    Jackie in Dallas,

    First, thanks for your service. Second, I was responding to Ijoe who blamed republicans for stirring up stories. This is an actually consideration, not a story. Smug?? absolutely not! What I caught was someone would jumped to the conclusion that republicans are responding to rumor and this individual will only believe what comes out of the president's mouth! No more no less! By the way, I wore a military uniform for over 20 years! I have earned this right to complain and correct!

    March 10, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
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